Toddler tantrums are a normal part of the child development process. They can start occurring from around 18 months old and tend to happen when a child becomes overwhelmed by emotions that they are unable to process. Tantrums usually become less common by around the age of four, helped by a child developing language and so being better able to express themselves with words. 

It's important to try to stay calm while your child is having a tantrum. This can be hard to do, but your child will pick up on your emotions, and will need the support of your thinking mind to help them regulate and better understand their own emotions. If you can ‘press pause’ and take a moment to think before you respond, showing them that you are not overwhelmed by their difficult feelings, it will help them to know that strong feelings are manageable and help them to follow suit.

Once they are calm, find a good time to chat to your child about what led to them feeling overwhelmed. Work it out together. By doing this, you are beginning the process of the giving them the words they will need to express themselves in future. And by understanding the triggers, and noticing how you respond, you and your child will become better able to manage these emotions and this will help to diffuse a future situation before it arises

Watch this short video for more about learning from toddler tantrums: 

Video Transcript:

Toddler tantrums! They can make you want to tear your hair out.

Embarrassing in public. Frustrating in private.

They usually happen if a child is feeling overwhelmed by an intense emotion which is too big for them to manage. Remember they are only little.

Letting it all out is how they express this.

Remember - it’s a completely normal and expected part of your child’s development.

Tantrums can start at around 18 months and are equally common in boys and girls. Once children start to talk, tantrums become less frequent.

Do your best to soothe your child and help them feel calm. Sometimes a distraction can help. 

Once calm they will be better at using their thinking minds.

With your help, toddlers having a tantrum can be an opportunity for them to learn about their feelings and how to manage them. 

Be curious about your child. What led them to feel this way? Work with them to work it out. It may help to diffuse a future situation before it happens. 

Always remember, this will pass and it will be okay.

Understanding your own childhood experiences 

Sometimes a child having a tantrum can trigger our own unhelpful responses that arise from experiences we had as children. Perhaps we had a parent who thought that crying was weak, or who found it hard to hear about our sadness. As adults we can find ourselves repeating these patterns with our own children, and even saying the unhelpful things our parents said to us! If we are able to notice this it can help us feel more compassionate towards ourselves and our child. We can find a different way of responding and be alongside our child in their distress. This will help your child to learn about their feelings and how to manage them.

Further resources:

Further support for your child:

  • If you're seriously concerned about your child's behaviour, you can speak to your GP or Health Visitor.
  • If you are finding it hard to cope with your child's behaviour, you can find more advice from the NHS
  • Download the positive parenting guide from the NSPCC

Further support for you:

Research tells us that more than 1 in 10 mums and around 1 in 10 dads will experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the first years. Many of these difficulties go unseen, undiagnosed, or untreated. It is important to seek help and support if you, or your partner, is struggling.

  • You can speak to your GP or Health Visitor.

You can also find some additional information, advice and further signposting from these organisations: 

Crisis Support:

If you or someone you care about is in crisis, or feeling suicidal and needs urgent help you can access support in the following ways:

  • Go to A&E at your local hospital
  • Phone emergency services on 999
  • Call Samaritans on 116 123 (free to call and will not appear on your phone bill), or email [email protected]

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